7 Curtin to Churchill

Cablegram Johcu 37 (extracts) CANBERRA, 16 July 1942

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

1. You will recall from cablegram No. 245 of 14th April [1] that

the Government expressed the view that all Australian troops

abroad should be returned to Australia, but it was prepared to

agree to the postponement of the return of the 9th Division until

it could be replaced in the Middle East and the necessary shipping

could be provided.

[A statistical summary of Australian troops in the Middle East has

been omitted.]

5. It will be noted that the reinforcements available provide for

only one and a half months' wastage on the basis of intense

activity. When these are exhausted the Division, if still engaged

in active operations, will have to be withdrawn from the line of

battle. If it were to remain in action with units of reduced

strength, its morale would be affected. Alternatively, it might be

maintained at strength by breaking up units of Corps troops, Base

and L. of C. [2] organisations. This would also create discontent.

6. In view of the original decision for the return of the A.I.F.

to Australia, I foresee considerable difficulties in the despatch

of further reinforcements from Australia. Most of the A.I.F. have

returned and are at battle stations, the two brigades from Ceylon

are en route and the general expectation is that the 9th Division

is also to come. Also, as stated in paragraph 5 of cablegram No.

245, the 9th Division cannot be retained abroad indefinitely

without its morale being affected.

7. Notwithstanding the respite granted by the Coral Sea action, it

is possible, though I know you do not think it probable, for Japan

to invade Australia in force until superiority in naval and air

power is established in the Pacific.

8. Had Japan been an enemy in 1939, the needs of Australian

Defence and the campaign in the Pacific would not have permitted

troops from Australia proceeding beyond Malaya. I now think, from

all points of view, that the concentration of the A.I.F. in

Australia for home defence and for participation with our American

Allies in offensive action against Japan, when this becomes

possible, is the best manner in which we can cooperate. We are

also continuing our part in the Empire Air Training Scheme, in

which we have 8,000 personnel abroad. In addition, we are manning

certain ships and supplying personnel to the Royal Navy, the

present number being 2,700.

9. I am putting the matter frankly to you in a personal manner.

With the 9th Division in action the subject must arise in the

immediate future, and I would like to have your views before it is

considered by War Cabinet.

CURTIN

1 Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. V, Document

465.

2 Lines of communication.

[AA:A4763]